Thursday, September 15, 2005

Town Hall Immigrants

Postcard I received from local Assemblywoman
[click on photo to enlarge]

The wording of the town meeting invitation indicates to me that blame is placed on undocumented Latino immigrants in California for most of society's ills. It's easier to blame the defenseless millions of people coming here from Mexico, Central and South America for our problems, than to take the difficult path of sighting and correcting the wrongs that are indigenous to mismanagement and lack of interest on the parts of the citizens themselves.

I responded to Ms. Walters in the following email, and she emailed me in return. I then responded to her email and include all 3 communications below, in order:

Assembylywoman Walters:

I received your invitation to attend a town hall meeting about "illegal immigration." I can only assume by your use of the term "illegal" what direction this meeting will take. You should be aware of the following, as quoted from my blog:

"Like it or not, 'Past immigration alone ensures that it [marriage across ethnic and racial lines] is our demographic future,' according to James P. Smith. Smith's byline states 'James P. Smith holds the chair inlabor markets and demographic studies at Rand Corp. He led a panel forthe National Academy of Sciences on the economic and tax effects of immigration.'

The report of that panel has been quoted in this blog before. Smith's clear and sober treatment of the current immigrationissue is in today's [May 1, 2005] Los Angeles Times "Opinion" section, which is devoted to the immigration debate. He draws major conclusions from statistical evidence of the advantages to our society of immigration, both documented and "undocumented"--or as the knee-jerk detractors wouldcall "illegal"-- immigrants.

Smith draws comparisons and contrasts between immigrants of today from Latin America and immigrants of the past from Europe and Asia, blasting holes in several long-held stereotypical assumptions with simple facts.

For instance: Some have contended that because of language, a common border or unwillingness to assimilate, U.S.-born children and grandchildren of Latino immigrants will not enjoy the spectacular generational successes achieved earlier by European migrants. That's simply not true. The education advances of Latino immigrants across generations are larger than they were for Europeans.

The op-ed piece is worth reading just to garner arguments for debate next time one of our xenophobic friends or relatives makes a remark like"We (meaning "regular Americans, white and mostly Christian") pay for illegal Mexicans' medical care and they give nothing in return." Smith's study proves otherwise: Immigrants also benefit federal taxpayers over the long term. They are young,they pay taxes, and the most expensive federal programs are for the elderly. Immigrants will not come close to solving our impending budget shortfalls caused by an aging population, but they help on the margin.

Smith also notes that in some areas, like California, the cost of education for immigrant children exceeds the benefits linked to immigration. Overall, the boost to the economy of immigration, both legal and illegal, is in the billions of dollars. The substance of the issue is complex, and there is the added confusion of emotional content "more cultural than economic," to both sides, according to Smith.

Smith's discussion, based on facts and figures, rather than erroneous bigoted attitudes, provides intelligent ground for solution of the immigration issue, rather than continuing the ignorant hatred. This country's government certainly is not going to round up millions of undocumented immigrants and send them back to their homes of origin."

You may wish to check the report indicated above. It shows how immigration has helped the US economy, and if you take out the racial and bigotted viewpoints from the arguments, there is nothing but positive societal advantages from having people who love this country enough to want to come and live and work here.

Thank you for the invitation.

--David Goldenberg

Walters replies:

Mr. Goldenberg,

Thank you for your response to my invitation to the Illegal immigration Town Hall. Your comments are clearly well organized and make some good points.

I used the word "illegal" because I believe that it is irresponsible for an elected official to "dance" around this issue. If we have a problem with our "legal" immigration system, we must make the necessary changes. To defend illegal immigration is to avert our eyes from the horror of September 11 and the possibility of many more attacks yet to come. To defend illegal immigration is to avert our eyes from the abuses that these immigrants suffer at the hands of traffickers, unscrupulous employers, and those who wish to exploit these individuals because they do not enjoy the same protections under the
Constitution that you and I enjoy.

Our country is a nation of immigrants; and this we cherish. But, at a
time when our State is experiencing a huge budget deficit, our country is recovering from the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history, and illegal immigration is out of control, I believe that the issue of illegal immigration must be addressed.

Thank you for contacting me with your views. I hope that we can agree on future issues of critical importance to our state.

Mimi Walters

My Reply to Ms. Walters:

Dear Assembymember Walters:

Thank you for your invitation to a meeting on "Illegal Immigration," about which I already wrote to you.

I will not attend this meeting, and I would like you to know why.

You responded to my letter (included below) with the following

1. "our State is experiencing a huge budget deficit,"

How do immigrants affect this budget deficit when the actual economic facts and figures show the tax base receives a boostfrom immigrants in general, despite the abuses you delineate?

2. "our country is recovering from the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history,"

You should be aware that after 4 years since 9/11, the recovery from that attack is fully accomplished, and stepping up methods to protect our borders against would-be future attackers will not prevent the few who are determined from getting in--as well as the fact that the London bombers were home-grown, and British citizens, and the next US major attack will probably come from US citizens as well.

Don't you think by now, the silliness of connecting 9/11 with the Iraq War, or immigration problems, is obvious to most people?

3. "illegal immigration is out of control, I believe that the issue ofillegal immigration must be addressed."

The fact is, if a bunch of white English-speaking British citizens suddenly arrived on our shores without documentation, there would not be the uproar there is over the influx of Hispanics, documented or not. The vigilante volunteer border patrols in Arizona and California recently were a disgusting display of fear and hatred at its worst. I will grant you there is a problem of drug smuggling and a criminal element which is part of the unprotected border entry. But I don't think you will find this any different than the percentage of drug pushers and criminals in the general population.

The Hispanic and Latino cultures have more to offer Americans that are positive than that which is negative. The sooner leaders like yourself wake up to this enlightenment and stop the fear-mongering and pandering to the dark side of your constituents, the sooner the immigration problem can be intelligently controlled and monitored for the effective safety of everyone.

It's hard to believe today, but in the 1800's in New York City the Irish
immigrants were treated much worse than the Latino immigrants today, but they came to America for the chance to work in freedom anyway, and no one thinks about an Irish immigration problem anymore. Whatever you accomplish at your "Illegal Immigration" meeting, you can not stop the inevitable inflow of people from around the world looking for the same thing in this country that many of us
take for granted--freedom from persecution. To continue to try to
persecute in order to set up a "feeling" of security is simply a self-defeating exercise in futility.

I will not attend your meeting in order to be shouted down by the
overwhelming majority who want to live in fear and disharmony with the reality of immigration. I respectfully ask that you consider the above points, which are not entirely my own, but culled from expert opinions on this matter.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

David Goldenberg

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